Arizona is a land of natural beauty, history, and culture. It’s a perfect destination for those seeking adventure, relaxation, and unforgettable memories. My family and I recently took a road trip through Arizona during my son’s spring break, and we were mesmerized by the stunning landscapes, fascinating history, and warm hospitality. In previous Arizona visits, I’ve trekked down to Havasupai Falls and hiked the Grand Canyon from Rim to Rim. This trip was much more relaxed and much less physically demanding, but included a lot of driving as we visited the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, and Antelope Canyon. In this blog post, I’ll share our experience visiting these three incredible destinations.
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon
Our first stop on this Spring Break road trip was at the Grand Canyon, one of the most visited national parks in the United States. The Grand Canyon is a natural wonder that is almost 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and over a mile deep. Nothing makes you appreciate the size and scale of the Grand Canyon like hiking from the south rim to the north rim and then back again (I haven’t done that in a few years, but want to give it another go in 2023)! Each leg of that hike covers 24 miles with around 7k ft of elevation. This time around, we opted for a much more pedestrian hike, and enjoyed the Rim Trail that walks visitors along the edge of the south rim with amazing views deep into the canyon. As soon as we arrived at the South Rim, we were awestruck by the panoramic views of the canyon’s red and orange cliffs, spires, and buttes. We were also treated to views of the canyon with a healthy coating of snow.
Our next destination on this Spring Break road trip was Monument Valley, a sacred and scenic landscape that has been featured in countless movies, TV shows, and photographs. Monument Valley is located on the Navajo Nation Reservation, and its towering red rock formations, mesas, and buttes are considered to be some of the most iconic symbols of the American West. I’ve seen Monument Valley pop up on the social media feeds of countless friends and family members over the past few years, but never had a chance to visit. Having now seen the sights myself, I can say it was well worth the drive.
Visiting the key sites in Monument Valley requires driving an 18-mile loop on a dirt fire road. With all the rain this year, there were a few rutted sections and muddy patches, but my 4runner enjoyed it. Those with smaller sedans seemed to be okay, but the ride looked very rough! As we made our way around the loop, we saw the famous Mittens, Elephant Butte, and Three Sisters, while learning about their spiritual and cultural significance.
At John Ford’s point, we were able to stop and enjoy some Navajo fry bread. Fry bread is a popular dish in Native American cuisine, particularly in the Navajo Nation. It is a type of flatbread that is made by mixing flour, salt, and baking powder, and then frying the dough in hot oil until it is golden brown. The bread can be served in a variety of ways, such as topped with honey or jam for a sweet treat, or with beans, meat, cheese, and vegetables for a savory meal. Fry bread has a long history in Navajo culture and is often associated with the forced relocation of Navajo people by the US government in the 1860s, which left them with limited access to traditional foods. Today, fry bread is an important symbol of Navajo identity and is enjoyed by people of all cultures.
We also visited a Navajo Hogan at Monument Valley, a traditional dwelling of the Navajo people, typically made of logs or stones and covered with mud or earth. The structure is usually round or octagonal in shape, with a cone-shaped roof made of poles and branches. Hogans are often considered sacred spaces, and they play an important role in Navajo spiritual and cultural practices.
We ended our visit to Monument Valley with a hike on the Wildcat Trail. This is the only hiking trail accessible to visitors in the park without a guide. As we set out on the Wildcat Trail, we were struck by the sheer beauty of the towering red rock formations and how close we were to the buttes. This 4-mile trail is short and not too difficult in the cooler months, but I’m sure it’s a real challenge in the summer heat.
Our final destination for this Spring Break road trip was in Page, AZ to visit Upper Antelope Canyon on a sightseers tour of a beautiful slot canyon. Antelope Canyon is famous for its narrow, twisted, and sculpted sandstone walls that glow in hues of red, orange, and pink when hit by the sun’s rays. The upper canyon can only be visited with an approved guiding service through the Navajo Reservation. Our tour began in the city of Page, where we hopped in a van and took a short drive through the city and along a bumpy dirt road to the canyon. Our Navajo guide led us through the canyon’s narrow passages and showed us how the sunlight created beautiful patterns and shapes on the canyon walls. We also learned about the canyon’s history and mythology, and how it was formed over thousands of years by the forces of nature.
Our road trip through Arizona was a perfect blend of adventure, culture, and natural beauty. We’re blessed to share a border with Arizona, and we’re already planning our next road trip! From the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon to the sacred Monument Valley and the mesmerizing Antelope Canyon, each destination has its unique charm and beauty. Best of all, each location changes dramatically with the seasons, so every visit feels a little bit different. I hope our experiences have inspired you to plan your own road trip through Arizona and discover the wonders of this incredible state.